If you have not had the chance, make sure you read over Lorcan Dempsey's recent article in Araidne and associated blog posting on the discovery experience. While he once again weaves in the idea of libraries needing to be in the flow of our customer's information seeking patterns, this time Lorcan discusses how the resources contained within the walls of libraries are no longer scarce:
"In a pre-network world, where information resources were relatively scarce and attention relatively abundant, users built their workflow around the library. In a networked world, where information resources are relatively abundant, and attention is relatively scarce, we cannot expect this to happen. Indeed, the library needs to think about ways of building its resources around the user workflow. We cannot expect the user to come to the library any more; in fact, we cannot expect the user even to come to the library Web site any more."
This observation is so true.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting with Lorcan on this concept. In the "old" days, the resources housed in libraries were scarce. The only place one could access the resources contained on the shelves was by visiting the physical library. In the networked world, resources themselves are plentiful.
The challenge that academic libraries will face very soon is that although resources are no longer scarce, space is becoming increasingly scarce. Chances are that planners are already looking at the stacks of materials within the walls of many academic libraries as dead space. Libraries need to look at the information commons, small group study spaces, and other academic support services which could be offered within the library in order to protect their space.
These new uses of the physical library space could bring customers back into the library. Maybe they will not be using the library as we have grown used to, but maybe they will once again find the value of entering our doors.
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